I've caught up with Ardbert now, at least weapon-wise. As far as actual prowess, though, I have "a large axe to grind", if you will.
As an aside, I admittedly wonder what Jalzahn did with the Atmas that stained Bravura with blood that won't come off, but that's a question better off unanswered.
Anyway, based on Gae Bolg, Bravura still has several more reforgings to undergo.
I knew Ardbert didn't have a completed Zodiac weapon, but it still feels like I caught up too quickly. The scholars would probably say that the Trials just don't exist in Norvrandt, and that's why my weapon's final form lies beyond his.
Personally, I suspect they exist, and Ardbert was just smart enough to stop at this point.
I mean, when G'jusana handed me the first book of Skyfall again....let's just say I still want to hurl it off the ramparts of Ishgard and be done with it.
Alternatively, maybe the Trials existed, but not anymore. Maybe Ardbert did the reasonable thing and used them as kindling. A heroic sacrifice for future generations.
But the book I'm holding is very much intact, and very much going to stay that way--for better or for worse.
Either way, getting to this point has at least fixed my near-incompatibility with the weapon type. A stockier build would still help, but between the heavier armor and Bravura's size, I actually look like I'm swinging my axe and not the other way around.
For what it's worth, I've been using my notes from Gae Bolg to strategize--once I clear these books, it will be smooth progress through the later steps. Still, the annotations in the margins insist that I have more persistence than intelligence.
I'd argue, but you can't start a fight you already lost.
To clarify, my brain works well enough, despite how much I've been knocked around--the issue is being more stubborn than common sense allows. Even so, I've learned
been forcefully taught better than to rush through everything. Basically, Bravura isn't going anywhere--I can afford to slow down.
Este might've also suggested he'd tell the twins if I don't...but I promise that's not the driving reason. I mean, even I can figure out that fire is hot after enough burns.
At the same time, there's....how to put this....
Sitting still just isn't my forte.
This probably seems abrupt, though--I've juggled every other craftsmanship until now, but left the culinary arts at the wayside. But I've...hmm. "remembered" both is and isn't the right word.
My past is starting to come back to me, albeit in a roundabout way.
What I saw....I was young--a bit younger than the Doman Adventurers' Guild--and grilling some kind of meat over a fire. Someone said my name and handed me a raw skewer; I smiled and gave him a cooked one in exchange.
That was where it ended--a battered fragment of a memory that barely survived being chipped free of my mind and violently forced through the Echo. My own memory, fed back to me like it belonged to a stranger.
And not only was it short, but the man with me....I couldn't see his face, and his voice was substituted with that of an ancient. Hints about his identity lost in the process.
Whatever sealed my past away did a damn good job of it, really.
His hands, though....I could see them. They were the color of Thanalan's cliffs, darkened by the sun to a rich copper. Covered in callouses and a constellation of old scars. And when the Echo ended....I remembered how they'd gently ruffle my hair.
I'm standing on a precipice again, faced with the usual choice.
I know not to fear the fall--I've survived enough of them now--but I need a force to get over the ledge. Before, I was pushed for my own good--ready or not--but no one can help me over this time, even if I ask.
I have to jump--the path of the culinarian is just my running start.